Archive for April, 2004


Is Bush really in trouble?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2004

bush blair

After a week away on business in the US I’ve returned to the UK more convinced more than ever that the Bush-Kerry race in November is going to be very tight even though the latest batch of polls has Bush back on top.

The Bush campaign is attacking Kerry’s policies such as threatened hikes in gasolene taxes. In contrast the Kerry campaign is focussing on the qualities of their candidate trying give to give positive reasons to vote. People are talking about this election in a way they were not talking four years ago. I have to be careful not to be guilty of wishful thinking but the anti-Bush resolve seems to be very strong. Given the low turnout in US elections it might be that those wanting change are more determined to vote than those happy with the status quo.

    It’s not just Iraq and its ongoing aftermath that is raising the doubts but the whole aggressive isolationist style of the Bush administration.

Common topics of conversation were the lack of ease Bush showed fielding questions at his nationally televised press conference, and of course the visit to Washington by Tony Blair. You also a good feel for opinion from the TV shows particularly C-Span’s “Washington Journal” which usually has a large phone-in content on the immediate political issues of the day.

A friend and colleague from Vermont, who had first raised doubts in my mind about Howard Dean’s chances, is now convinced that Bush can be beaten. He is an acute observer of the US political scene and I take his view seriously. I made a lot of money on his advice on Dean and I’m inclined to think he’s right on the November vote.

One of the wonders of American politics is the extraordinary openness on political donations which mean that it’s often very easy to check people’s politics. There’s a great website where you can find out about all political donations above the very small amounts and you can cross check the view that people express to you with whether they ever contributed to Republican or Democrat campaigns. What really shocked me was discovering that two of those who expressed the biggest doubts about Bush had been Republican donors in the past.

The markets in the UK continue to tighten and now only one bookmaker is offering 2.37 on Kerry which, even with the latest polls, looks good value.


Steve Norris and

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004


It’s inevitable as gets known that candidates running for office are going to use what’s said here if they think it to their advantage. The website of the Steve Norris campaign in London has included some of our observations on the opinion polls.

    When we make a call here we do so because we believe that on the basis of the evidence the chances of something happening are less than the current betting odds. Our objective is solely to aid the political gambler. The fact that we think that a particular outcome might happen does not mean that we actually want that outcome. That is beside the point.

Steve Norris’s chances in the London Mayoral race are based on two things – his ability to mobilise the Tory vote and whether for the second election running Ken Livingstone is able to assemble a broad coalition of support from Londoners who do not normally vote Labour.

Last time Ken got in because 160,000 Tories and Lib Dem supporters gave him their number one preference as did 125,000 Green voters and he was able to attract more than 105,000 people to the polls who did not take part in any of the other elections that day. This time he’ll get the full Labour vote – the question is whether he can attract enough switchers and the non-local election participants.

My reading is that the Tories will get 35-40% of the GLA vote and hardly any will switch to Ken for the Mayor vote. The LDs will get 20+% in the GLA poll and most will stick with Hughes – but there could be quite a number of Greens who will make Ken their number 1. The critical group on June 10 could be those who turned out last time just to vote for Ken and do nothing else. Will enough of them do so in June even though Ken is now the official Labour candidate?

Be very careful about opinion polls in this election. At precisely this stage in the 2000 campaign this appeared.

The actual result was-
Livingstone 39% (DOWN 22%)
Norris 27.2% (UP 14.2%)
Dobson 13.1% (DOWN 2.9%)
Kramer (LD) 11.9% (UP 3.9%)
However you look at it the chances of Livingstone winning are much lower than the current odds.


The Monday Call – a 100% record

Monday, April 19th, 2004
    The first Monday Call, a week ago, has been 100% accurate in predicting political betting market movements. All the BACK calls have shortened in price or the bets are no longer available.


The Markets, the Trends and the Calls
UK General Election

  • The main UK General Election market has seen a small shift to the Tories during the week. Two bookmakers are now offering 1.28 on Labour and the betting exchange price is 1.31. As we’ve said repeatedly do not be tempted to back any party other than Labour. The way the Westminster boundaries are drawn mean that Tony Blair has a massive cushion of seats before the Tories get a look in. We think the market will move to the Tories a notch or two more after the June 10 local and Euro elections and you should wait until then before BACKING Labour.
  • A General Election bet that might work is to back the Tories on a betting exchange and then lay the bet fully when the price, as predicted, tightens. Thus if you placed £100 on at the current 4.3 you would make a £100 if the price slipped to 3.3. With the current strong Tory price we see little risk in this bet – provided you offset the bet by laying the full amount after Labour’s expected poor performance in the June 10 local and Euro elections.
  • In the Number of Labour Seats market for the next UK General Election we said BACK last week at the open-ended price of 4.5 for 335 seats and below. This bet is no longer available and seems to have been withdrawn by the bookmaker. We had felt this to be good value because the bookmaker had not factored in the reductions in the number of Labour seats in Scotland which will take away at least ten from the overall national total.
  • The speculation about a Euro referendum in the UK before the General Election could have an impact on the party leaders markets. One of my favourite bets is LAYING “Tony Blair & Kennedy” to still be party leaders at the General Election. You win if either or both go and there is enough noise about both to make anything less than 1.9 good value. BACKING Gordon Brown at 4.1 to be Labour leader at the election looks a worthwhile bet.
  • In the Betdaq Year of General Election market our call was BACK the 1.9 on 2005. Nobody is now laying on that year. If layers come back into the market BACK at anything above 1.5.
  • London Mayoral Election – June 10 2004

  • In the London Mayoral race we suggested that the prices of 11 on both the Tories and Lib Dems were good value. These have now dropped one or two points. Although the chances of either winning are much lower there are layers about and and the art is to get the highest price you can. At this stage BACK on anything above 9 on either.
  • US Presidential Election November 2 2004

  • In the US Presidential Election the price on John Kerry has, as predicted here, moved downwards. Last week 3 bookmakers were offering 2.5 – now three are offering 2.37. This is still good value – BACK.
    • For profitable political betting keep following the Monday Calls.

    NOTE: When we make a call we are stating that we believe that the chances of something happening are better than the odds that are available.
    All prices quoted are as at time of posting.


    Betting Odds search engines – best for political betting

    Sunday, April 18th, 2004


    The third post on the ways of politcal betting looks at at the traditional bookmakers where getting the best price used to be laborious and time-consuming and involved switching between upto 20 sites. But that’s all changed with the emergence of the betting odds search engines. These link to the online bookmakers, continually scan prices in each market, and then present them on the screen in an easy to digest table.

      The odds search engines end once and for all the frustration of making a bet with one bookmaker only to discover that another is offering a much better price.

    Finding the best value is easy because you can see the odds that each bookie allowing you to compare what’s available. They usually have the betting exchange prices available as well as, now, spread betting information. The one-stop site for all you betting market needs is a great boon.

    To make a bet you click on the price and this takes you through to the bookmaker’s site. If you already have an account you simply bet in the normal way. If you do not then the odds engines’ facilities usually make this easy for you.

    In preparing these posts for the search engines are indispensable. Not only can you see what the prices are but you can also get an idea of the plethora of different markets that are there.

    There are three main betting odds search engines – Oddschecker, Easyodds and Bestbetting.

      The leading site for political gamblers is Bestbetting – which is very much “the Google of the betting search engines”. It always has the widest range of political markets whice are updated round the clock at regualr intervals

    Number of political markets covered by the main Odds Search Engines:-
    Bestbetting 20
    Easyodds 1
    Oddschecker 5

    All the links on odds on this site go to Bestbetting.


    Political spread-betting – on the decline

    Saturday, April 17th, 2004

    The second of a series of posts looking on the different forms of political gambling looks at spread betting which before the exchanges were fully established was about the best way to make interesting and profitable political bets.

    The spread firms take a market such as the number of seats will Labour win at the General Election and offer a spread of prices. Currently it is 332-342. If you believe that Labour will get more then you BUY at, say, £50 seat and for every one additional to the 342 buy price you will win £50. If you have called it wrong and they get less than 342 then you lose £50 for each seat below. Theoretically you could stand to lose 342 times 50 if Labour did nor win any seats at all – hence the real danger of getting into this sort of betting..

    The process works the other way round if you think that they will get less than 332. You place a SELL bet and the price you get is the lower one. You win the agreeed amount for each seat less than 332 that Labour gets. Again your theoretical maximum risk would be 646 – the number of Commons seats.

    To deal with these high levels of exposure you usually agree to a top and bottom limit when you place the bet so the most you could win or lose would be say 50 seats up or down.

    Not all situations lend themselves to such a simple index as seats won. The firms will create their own index and say give 50 to the winner, 25 to the second and 10 to the third. This is how the London Mayoral Market worked last time. I figured that Norris would come second and the initial spread was 11.5-12.5. Given that he was almost certain to come third my risk was 2.5 – the gap with the third place index rating. My gain was 25 minus 12.5 multiplied by my staked amount.

    In that bet I liked the security that my down-side risk was fairly limited. Effectively I was getting 4-1 on him coming in second. To make this market more interesting a premium of 10 was placed on the index if a candidate got more than 50% of the vote. This put the spread on Livingstone above 50 and I placed a big sell bet.

      The idea that the more you are right then the more you win is very seductive but there are huge risks involved.

    At the 2001 General Election I was convinced that the Tories would do much better than the opinion polls were suggesting. I was right – the margin in votes cast was just 9% and the Labour lead on votes was down by 1.6 million. But this had almost no impact on the number of seats and I lost a lot of money. Fortunately my London Mayoral winnings more than covered this.

    In writing this post I have been amazed by the lack of spread-betting political betting markets now being offered. It is clear that in this area spreads are on the decline and gamblers like me have moved to the betting exchanges.

    The General Election seat market is fascinating because a very small switch between the Tories and Lib Dems could make a huge difference to the Tory seat totals and this is going to be very difficult to call. But if you want to bet on seat numbers then the offerings from the conventional bookmakers are more attractive.


    Political betting on the exchanges

    Friday, April 16th, 2004


    The coming US presidential and UK General elections will be the first where the internet-based betting exchanges will be the primary betting arenas. Although they have been around in the UK for 4-5 years it is only in the last year or so that they’ve really taken off for political gambling.

    The moment the exchanges came into their own for me was the day last November when the Tories were ousting Ian Duncan Smith. I was glued to Sky News with my laptop open at Betfair’s “Who will be Tory Leader at the General Election market?” At just on 5.30 pm – with the confidence vote ballot due to close in an hour – the IDS price indicated that he was doomed.

      Then there was extraordinary activity around the price of David Davies. He had been trading at about 3, slightly behind Michael Howard, when his price just collapsed, first to 6-7 and then in a few minutes to 10. Somebody knew something and the information was travelling like wild-fire. I did not need to watch the TV news programmes – it was all unravelling on the betting screen.

    I figured in an instant that a deal had been done with Howard and put as much as I could on as his price was dropping.

    The other great advantage of the Betting Exchanges is that you can bet AGAINST something happening. The term is that you LAY bets that other people want to make on a specific outcome. Thus when, just after Christmas I started to have doubts about whether the runaway favourite for the Democratic nomination, Howard Dean, I was able to back my judgement without having to decide which of the other candidates were going to get it. I laid at an average of 1.7 which meant that for every £70 I risked I made £100.

    Another great feature of the exchanges is that you can reduce your risk at any time. As Howard’s price rose I then backed him at a much bigger price than I had laid which meant that I would not lose whatever happened. This cut down my overall profit but made me feel a bit more comfortable.

    A further advantage of using an exchange is that you can get out of positions which, on later consideration, you believe you called wrong. My main choice for the Democrat race became John Edward. I put a series of bets on but then it became clear to me, at least, that this was not going to happen so I laid the whole lot at a loss – but still not as bad as losing all your money.

    The exchanges make their money by charging punters a commission on wining bets. They also get to hold onto both the backers and layers money for considerable periods. But generally the odds are better than you can get elsewhere and you have all the flexibility advantages. You can change your mind.

    My main criticism is sometimes a lack of imagination in establishing novel markets. At the moment you cannot even bet on who Kerry’s running mate will be and there are no General Election seat markets.

    The exchanges are much more sensitive than normal book-makers and they are most fun when a lot of people are betting in a market which is highly liquid.

    For more details on exchange betting go to
    This produces a regular newsletter that is well worth getting.


    Are the Tory polls gains illusory?

    Thursday, April 15th, 2004

    tory logo

    Following the posts about how pollsters try to find elusive Tories a reader has suggested that with the leadership of Michael Howard the party is more sure of itself and that supporters are much more likely to admit this to interviewers.

      Thus it is not that there are more Tories – just more of them ready to say so!

    If that is the case, and with all the pollsters’ balancing measures that are in place to redress the Tory position, could it be that the recent poll gains are not real at all?

    You would expect this to show in the gap between the internet pollster, YouGov, and the Populus Poll in the Times which uses weighting adjustments. Certainly this has narrowed from about 7-8% to about 5% but that is not really significant.

    What seems to be happening at the moment is that all the polls are putting Labour in the 34-35% region – where they differ is with the Tory – Liberal Democrat split. The higher the LibDem share the harder it will be for the Tories to make inroads in terms of seats. We might get a 2001 repeat where the Labour vote lead was cut by 1.6m but this produced less than a handful of extra seats for William Hague’s Tories.

    We will have a clearer view after the Euro, Local and London elections on June 10. Michael Howard has to show that he is making a real impact and the Tory share of the vote needs to be in the YouGov territory of 39% rather than the 34-35% of the other polls. If it is the latter then Tony Blair has no problems at all even if his Euro and local results are disastrous.

    I will need a lot of convincing to switch my call on Labour winning most seats at the General Election.


    Are London Mayor backers being misled by the law?

    Thursday, April 15th, 2004


    Are punters in the London mayor market being lulled into a false sense of security because the laws on election expenses are preventing Steve Norris and Simon Hughes from actively campaigning at the moment?

    The “taxi meter” on expenses starts the moment that they declare their candidatures and this triggers a whole series of financial regulations to ensure that every item of expenditure – from paper clips to printing – is itemised and kept within tight maximum spending limits.

    The danger is that if they are too active and say publicly that they ARE the candidate for Mayor then the financial regime kicks in too early which could make things hard during the actual campaign.

    These rules are drilled in to everyone who ever gets selected as a PROESPECTIVE candidate and you are told in no uncertain terms that if you win and break the rules then your victory can be ruled null and void by the courts.

    Ken Livingston is the incumbent and a huge amount of materials come out of his office bearing his picture with the word MAYOR next to it( see picture above). Steve and Simon have no such advantage. Thus the impression that Ken is all over the place and that the others are not out doing anything is simply the result of the Tories and LDs being ultra-careful.

    The campaign proper will start next month when the three are formally “adopted” as candidates.

    In the “phoney war” period last time Ken’s opponents were languishing while his ratings soared. After the formal campaign period started, Ken dropped a staggering 29%, the LD more than doubled her rating and Norris went up two and a half fold. This time Norris is way ahead of where he was at the same stage in 2000, Ken is way below and punters should not be fooled by the lack of action by Ken’s opponents. This has got CLOSE CALL written all over it.